Innocent man free after 26 years

April 19, 2008 1:39:23 PM PDT
Alton Logan became a free man Friday after an attorney, who knew all along that someone else gunned down a guard on the south side of Chicago, finally broke his silence after 26 years.

Logan has now spent half his life in prison for killing a security guard at a Chicago McDonald's, a crime he has always said he did not commit.

"I never gave up hope because I knew this was something that I didn't do," Logan said.

A month after Logan was arrested, Dale Coventry, a Chicago public defender, stumbled on the real killer, Andrew Wilson, who was one of his clients. Coventry confronted Wilson.

"We were told that you were the shooter at the McDonald's," Coventry recalled of his conversation with Wilson at the time. "'Was that true?' He said, 'Uh huh.' I said, 'With a shotgun? You killed him with the shotgun?' and he said, 'Yeah.'"

Under the rules of attorney-client privilege, Coventry had to keep Wilson's confession secret.

"What he told me was sacrosanct. It is privileged. My ethical duty is to not reveal that information. And I never did," Coventry said.

Logan was convicted of the killing, and the prosecutors even sought the death penalty based on three eye witness testimonies, though there was no physical evidence.

"I am not going to lie. I was scared," Logan recalled feeling at the time while he was awaiting the decision.

The jury gave life in prison without parole.

"They prosecuted an innocent man," Coventry said. "How do you live with yourself having this secret? ... I couldn't do anything legally or ethically. I represented Andrew Wilson."

Tormented by his secret, Coventry wanted to do something. He wrote an affidavit that Wilson was the killer, had it notarized and locked it in a box.

When Wilson died late last year, Coventry unlocked the box and shared his secret.

"All this time they knew, but they can say nothing," Logan said. "What they don't realize is this ... giving an individual the death penalty is giving them a fast death. Giving an individual life is giving them a slow death, a lingering death."

During half of his life spent in Stateville prison, both his mother and his grandmother, who raised him, died. "They are lost ... gone. You can't get them back," Logan said, reflecting on what he had missed.

Years ago, Logan decided what he would do first after being set free.

"I have seen it coming for the last 26 years. ... I am going to go to the graveyard, go to the cemetery and talk to my grandmother there. Talk to her spirit right there. Mama ... I am finally home."


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